If you were geared up about that Skype Translator that Microsoft announced a year ago, but weren't a fan of the signup process, then today is your lucky day ... well, that is, as long as you own a Windows 8 or 8.1-running machine.
Starting today, the Skype Translator preview is available for anyone with a Windows 8.X device to download from the Windows Store. It performs (almost) real-time translation for conversations in two-way combinations of English, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin (with more languages on the way).
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To get Skype Translator to work its magic, you start by selecting a contact in the app and toggling the Translator setting to "on." Then you pick that contact's native language and make a call. It works with video and voice calls, as well as IM chats.
For calls, after speaking to the person, there will be a short pause while it processes your speech. After a few seconds, it should speak your statement in the recipient's language, using a text-to-speech (TTS) voice (during setup you can pick between a male or female TTS voice).
If your message gets garbled, you can jump in and correct it with your old-fashioned keyboard. Skype recommends using a headset with mic for the best voice recognition results.
Though Mac and mobile users are currently left out of the fun, once this service gets a wider release, it could be one of the more useful recent innovations in chat and communication. It could even be an initial step towards some professional translators ultimately being replaced by computers (this tech would work great in a gold-colored protocol droid).
If you have a Windows 8.X-running PC, you can try Skype Translator out for yourself in the Windows Store.
Source: Skype blogView gallery - 3 images